26/08/11

By James Perrin, SEO Copywriter for Social Media Agency Koozai

The recent riots which started in the nation’s capital and spread throughout towns and cities up and down the country sent a shockwave across the nation sending ordinary citizens into a state of fear and disbelief. In the midst of the madness, when emotions were high, something or somebody needed to be blamed for the spate of civil unrest we had witnessed — a scapegoat was required. Step forward Blackberry Messenger and social media.

The tabloids had a field day blaming social media for helping to organise the riots and subsequent looting spree. The immediacy that social media gave these groups came under the spotlight, and was even raised in the House of Commons when Parliament reconvened during the summer break for unprecedented crisis talks on the troubles.

But when David Cameron actively seeks to introduce new laws giving the Police greater powers to monitor sites like Facebook and Twitter, is he overlooking the role they played in organising mass clean ups and helping those who were victims of these senseless crimes? For all the bad that social media had apparently caused, Twitter in particular was an unsung hero.

In the aftermath of the riots, good hearted citizens used Twitter to organise gatherings where people could help clean up the mess. #riotcleanup and #LondonRiots became the leading Twitter trends, used and shared by hundreds of thousands of people including celebrities residing in London, such as Simon Pegg.

Twitter’s efforts didn’t stop there either. It played its part in helping catch those guilty too, with many people Tweeting and ReTweeting links with screenshots of those bragging about stolen loots. The hashtag #shopalooter became increasingly popular as people wanted to do their bit to help via the micro-blogging site.

When Cameron tells us the police need stronger powers to help disrupt social media sites during times of mass violence and crime, we see they’re already using social media tools to help gather and share information. For example The Metropolitan Police uploaded pictures of suspected rioters to their Flickr page, which was subsequently picked up and shared by endless Twitter users, ensuring that the Met’s pictures had unrivalled exposure.

Not only that, but the nature of the riots and copycat riots which spread to towns and cities nationwide, meant that local county constabularies could use Twitter to keep people in the loop and up-to-date with what was happening in their local area. For example Hampshire Constabulary took advantage of this tool to reassure local residents that no trouble had broken out across the county and not to believe any rumours which had been circulating regarding unreported violence. This was echoed throughout England.

There are certainly two sides to social media and its role in the recent riots, but for all the supposed problems it caused, there were some huge positives. This isn’t the first time that Twitter has been used to garner momentum and be a force for good either. The Arab uprisings earlier this year and the recent News of The World phone hacking scandal are great examples of this.

Whilst Twitter’s ability to generate momentum was seen as a major enabler for the riots, it shouldn’t be forgotten that this also helped to fight and ultimately end the same disturbances. With users gathering to join clean up operations, shopping looters and reassuring frightened citizens, it proved what an invaluable asset it can be. Twitter fought back against the rioters, and how.

About the Author

James has worked in sales and marketing for a variety of industries including the finance and events sectors. His real passion is for marketing, communications and journalism and he started working for Koozai as an SEO Copywriter after attaining a Distinction in his Masters in 2010.

Koozai offer industry-leading services in the areas of natural Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Pay Per Click (PPC) Management and Link Building. Their impressive client roster includes University of Cambridge, NHS, Harley Street Urology and Nucleus Healthcare.

As an organisation, Koozai are accredited as a Google AdWords Qualified Company. Furthermore, they hold ISO 9001 accreditation alongside many other industry recognised memberships and affiliations.

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